Chapter

THE RECORDED VOICE FROM VICTORIAN AURA TO MODERNIST ECHO

John M. Picker

in Victorian Soundscapes

Published in print October 2003 | ISBN: 9780195151916
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199787944 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195151916.003.0005
 THE RECORDED VOICE FROM VICTORIAN AURA TO MODERNIST ECHO

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This chapter argues that while moderns used the gramophone to represent their concerns over the disintegration of artistic “aura” in an age of mechanical reproduction, Victorians used the phonograph in ways that spoke to their own concerns over issues ranging from the domestic to the imperial. It presents a cultural study attentive to the varied, often contradictory later Victorian manifestations of the phonograph, in the publicity-related activities of Thomas Edison's London agent George Gouraud, who arranged for recordings to be made of Robert Browning and Alfred Tennyson, as well as in works such as Arthur Conan Doyle's “The Voice of Science” and “The Japanned Box”, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. The phonograph, with the power to record and replay, promised a special kind of communal integrity even as it extended a troubling sense of fragmentation. Through its mechanical reproduction of voice, it offered forms of control and interaction that late Victorians initially found not impersonal and fearful as moderns later did, but in a period of diminishing mastery over empire and the self, individualized, reassuring, and even desirable.

Keywords: Thomas Edison; George Gouraud; Bram Stoker; Arthur Conan Doyle; Joseph Conrad; Robert Browning; Alfred Tennyson; His Master's Voice

Chapter.  15303 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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